Thames Street, Oxford
It’s been a long year. This is the last one of these you’re getting in 2013 – THANK GOD, EH?
2013 feels a little bit like a year in which the future caught up with us slightly. All the things that I was writing about in January / February as fanciful futureprojections all sort of avalanched as the months progressed, and it’s all a bit overwhelming come December. I don’t know about you, but I just want a rest and to stop thinking for a while.
On a personal note, about a year ago I quit a job that I was no longer able to pretend to care about, in order to do I have no idea what. 12 months on I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but I haven’t defaulted on my mortgage – this is success, of a sort. Thanks to each and every one of you who have read this mess over the past year – I really do appreciate it. Thanks also to Imperica for hosting it, and for giving me no editorial guidelines whatsoever (you may or may not think that this is a good thing) – the least I can do is plug their AWESOME EVENT again. Buy tickets, it’ll be good.
So, webmongs, for the final time in 2013 let me take you by the collar (because from hereon in you are firmly under my control) and take you for a bracing walk through the icy hinterlands of the internet, where – from what I can see – it has been winter for a very long time, and where 2014 looks like much, much more of the same. MERRY CHRISTMAS, WEBMONGS.
By Deborah Simon
THIS IS THE LAST TIME I AM GOING TO HAVE TO WRITE ANYTHING ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA IN 2013 AND IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DESCRIBE IN WORDS QUITE HOW HAPPY THAT FACT MAKES ME SO INSTEAD ENVISAGE ME DOING AN INTERPRETATIVE DANCE TO CONVEY THE ENDORPHIN FLOODS I AM CURRENTLY FEELING:
- Facebook Launches Autoplay Video On Mobile: And, as it happens, on desktop too. This isn’t new news (I think they first alluded to this over the Summer, although I can’t be bothered to check exactly when). So yes – videos uploaded to Facebook through its own video player (and this is an important point – not YouTube (or indeed any other platform) embeds) will now autoplay as users scroll past them on the newsfeed (although audio won’t automatically play, which is a smart design decision). So, yes, MORE ENGAGEMENT! As I wrote when they announced this: “BRANDS! Here’s your opportunity to do something marginally creative with this! Perhaps people trapped in the videos, desperately beckoning scrolling people to stop and click on a link. Or something. Jesus, I don’t know, you lot are supposed to be the creative ones, I just write this crap.
- Facebook’s 2013 In Review: Facebook’s wrapup of the year data here, which you will almost certainly already have seen but I include through a possibly missplaced sense of completeness. It’s a lot less interesting than Tumblr’s, I think. You can also do ‘Your Year In Review’, whereby Facebook scrapes your page for those updates and photos that have elicited most slack-jawed clicking from people you no longer remember but which you were ever friends with in real life. Which is cute, but unremarkable. Overall, underwhelming. You’d think that knowing more about humanity’s likes and behaviours than any company in history (bar one) would enable them to say something more interesting.
- Page Yourself Lets You Build Websites Inside Facebook: Well, not quite. What it actually seems to do is enable Pages to create quite rich tabs with website-like functionality, but what’s really interesting is that it’s free. It seems legitimate, but I can’t help but be a little skeptical about the functionality, etc. There might, though, be useful creative applications for it if you play around, and it could be helpful if you’re a small business owner. Maybe.
- Instagram Messaging!!!!: I’m finding it really hard to be anything other than totally indifferent to this news. ANOTHER way in which we can send personal messages through yet another platform? With pictures? Oh god. HOW MANY DIFFERENT BLOODY WAYS? TOP TIP FOR 2014: a service which offers an aggregated message alert service for all 213 separate networks on which people can contact you, including your home phone and doorbell, called “Please, everyone, I just want to find a space where noone can reach me”. Anyway, in a move which is so unsurprising as to feel like it was actually announced last year, Instagram yesterday announced that users will be able to send private picture messages and conduct private conversations on the platform. There’s more info in the link – interesting for brands, though, is the opportunity to allow users to contact them directly with images (competition entries, etc), and the fact that images can be sent privately to up to 15 users simultaneously, which if you are famous or a famous brand ambassador actually opens up some semi-interesting possibilities when it comes to SURPRISING AND DELIGHTING your BRAND FANS (you can lift those words directly, if you want – frankly I feel dirty having just typed them, so you’re welcome to take them off my hands). Oh look, and here’s GAP being the first brand to use it and doing exactly what I said (ie photo submissions).
- 2013 On Twitter: I like this a little more than Facebook’s, largely because the nature of Twitter means that they’re able to show you the way in which the platform was used to share information about significant moments. Anyway, this is their little nifty HTML roundup of the year as they saw it (strangely there’s no apparent mention of anything that’s not English language, which seems a bit odd to me).
- Twitter Launches Broad Match Ad Targeting: If you buy ads on Twitter (and if you do comms-type stuff on social media there’s really very little reason why you shouldn’t, given they’ve killed the minimum spend) this is very useful. Basically they’ve made it easier to target people who post broadly relevant stuff around an issue – so if you want to target people who ‘love coffee’, you will now also be able to target people who ‘luv coffee’, ‘*heart* coffee’, ‘really need to perhaps apply these romantic feelings to a member of the same species rather than a caffeinated beverage’, etc etc., automatically rather than having to set this stuff up yourself. A move, not unlike Facebook’s simplification of its ad buying process the other week, designed to make it easier for anyone, particularly small businesses, to participate in the promotional jamboree, but which is as useful for larger brands.
- Send Pictures As Embeds in DMs: Yep, that. Like the Instagram thing, sort of, except it only works on the Twitter website and own apps rather than on 3rd party clients at the moment.
- They Changed How You Block People On Twitter And People Got Angry So They Changed It Back: There is nothing more to say about this.
- Tumblr Adds Trending Blogs Ad Option: Starting January, brands will be able to buy trending slots on Tumblr. Starting as a mobile-only ad offer, the ad unit includes the name of the advertiser – or whatever they’re flogging – a follow button and three recent images from the Tumblr in question. It will almost certainly cost A LOT of money.
- Google + Launches Social Ads: Hm, this confuses me slightly. Basically you can now turn any Google+ post into an ad unit, which you can then pay to be displayed elsewhere on the web. There’s a degree of interactive functionality included in the eventual ads – comments, the option to join a hangout, etc – but it feels quite a lot like this is more an advert for Google+ than for the actual thing that’s being advertised.
- Google Knows Where You Have Been: For some of you this may be a little bit creepy. Say hello to Google’s location history which, if you’re logged in to your Google account, can show you where you were on any given day based on data collected from your Android phone and other associated data. WE DIDN’T SIGN UP FOR TH…oh, no, hang on, we did, we just didn’t bother reading the T&Cs. Damnation! Anyway, leaving aside the really quite sinister subtext of this stuff, there’s got to be some interesting hacks possible here – I am guessing (hoping?) that the data’s fairly private to you, but would be interesting to see what API stuff you can do with it.
- YouTube In 2013: YouTube’s nice little self-referential video looking back at the biggest vids of 2013. You read about the 10 most popular here; interesting and impressive that there are two piece of brand stuff in here (the Carrie promo and another sodding creepy baby video by some water brand).
- YouTube Lets Verified Accounts Livestream: Or do on-air hangouts. Useful to know – you can do quite a lot of fun things with this, I think. Just for clarity, you don’t actually need to do very much at all to get a verified YouTube channel – it’s not like Twitter / Facebook.
- Google Tips: Google launched this yesterday (I think) – a useful guide to some of its consumer facing products and how to get the most out of them. Very nicely put together as you’d expect, and I guarantee that there will be stuff on there that you didn’t know you could do.
- A Cheat Sheet For Ad Types On Social Media: No more, no less. You probably ought to know this already if this sort of stuff is your job, but in case you need a reminder.
- Kik Reaches 100million Users: The news in itself isn’t that interesting, but the piece is actually a good overview of the service and has some interesting stuff about how the platform might develop. A useful one to bring out in the first client meeting of 2014 when you’re struggling to remember why it is you do this stuff in the first place and just need something newish to wave at a client.
- WeChat Has 500million Users: This one too – WeChat is a Chinese site which takes elements of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc, and is very popular. Your client won’t have heard of it, probably, and you can make yourself seem all future and stuff by mentioning it. YOU CAN THANK ME IN THE NEW YEAR.
- Some Social Media Awards Thingy You Can Vote In Should You Be So Minded: I’m nothing to do with them, fyi, I just thought I should include a link to one of the myriad of these things are out there if you are the sort of person who likes to vote for ‘campaign of the year’ and that sort of stuff.
- Oh, and seeing as it’s the end of the year, a prediction – next year will see at least one major global brand leaving Facebook as they consider it to be no longer relevant to their core target audience. Probably. Maybe.
By Tim Bird
THE LAST SELECTION OF LINKS YOU WILL GET FROM ME IN 2013 AND WHICH THEREFORE YOU SHOULD SAVOUR LIKE SOME SORT OF FINE WINE OR SINGLE-ESTATE COCOA BEAN CHOCOLATE WHILST SECRETLY BEING QUITE GLAD THAT YOU CAN SPEND THE HOLIDAYS IGNORING THE INTERNET COMPLETELY (OR AT LEAST THAT’S WHAT I PLAN TO DO – I REALLY COULD DO WITH A BREAK FROM ALL THIS, WEBMONGS, IF I’M HONEST WITH YOU, BECAUSE SOMETIMES I WORRY IT’S NOT REALLY VERY GOOD FOR ME OR INDEED PSYCHOLOGICALLY HEALTHY TO READ THIS MUCH INTERNET), PT.1:
- If This Then That Launches Location Triggers For Mobile: If This Then That (IFTT) is a great thing in many respects – if you don’t use it already (although I think that if you’re reading this then you probably do), it’s a service which lets you set up sequential processes using digital social media – so for example you can set it to upload all your Instagram pictures to Facebook, for example. This week they launched a location-based service for mobile, which effectively lets you set up triggers which will make stuff happen when you’re in a certain place (according to your phone). So you could set it to, for example, turn your heating on when you leave the office (if you have fancy housing). I KNOW THIS IS MENTAL IT’S THE FUTURE. There have to be some very cool hacks around this – have a think / play.
- The 4sq Map: A hack for Foursquare which takes the data the app knows about you and potentially makes it a lot more useful than it might otherwise be, through mapping, etc. Have a play, if you use the service.
- Ampp3d: So this launched – Martin Belam’s next project for Trinity Mirror, applying the learnings from ubersuccessful experiment Us Vs Th3m (profiled on Radio4 this morning, no less) to data journalism. It will be interesting to see how this one compares – the Mirror branding is a lot more overt, and I wonder to what extent they will do paid-for datajournalism from brands. Anyway, you can read the very clever Mr Belam’s thoughts on launching it here – interesting stuff.
- Mandela’s Walk: Lovely piece of work by the Economist, bringing together a lot of their archived writing about Mandela over the past 70-odd years into a very deep chronology of the man’s life and achievement. Not only a nice piece of webwork, but a very clever way of using its archive and also, subtly, emphasising the publication’s heritage.
- Because The Internet: The Childish Gambino thing is sort of mind-meltingly meta media (that was unintentional alliteration, I promise) – is it a joke? Is it a legitimate side-project by a very talented man? Is it BOTH OF THOSE THINGS AT ONCE??? Actually I think Donald Glover’s a very good musician so I’m inclined to lean towards the side-project explanation. Anyway, his latest album is called ‘Because The Internet’ and is all sorts of levels of interesting about the web and culture and STUFF – the accompanying website, though, is just crazy – effectively a full-length film script designed to accompany the album, with embedded videos and set directions and all sorts of general meta-commentary (that meta word again) on the album and life. It’s quite staggering in its length and breadth, and I would very much recommend saving this one and having a look through when you have a spare hour or so (do people even have spare hours any more? I can’t tell).
- Circuit Stickers: These are stickers which let you add electronics to anything – paper, fabric, whatever you fancy. Which means all sorts of rather cool potential applications for design and fashion, in a sort of homely, homespun, papercraft-y Etsy-type way. If you like a bit of twee AND a bit of electricity (and who doesn’t?) then these may well be right up your alley.
- iPet Companion: This may well make your Friday afternoon. A service to promote animal shelters in North America which, thanks to webcams and a few plugins, lets people from all over the world play with kittens in their browswers. That’s right, PLAY WITH KITTENS. Be honest with yourself – you have a stinking hangover (I know you), you’re not going to do any work…why not make yourself feel better with cats? Has the added bonus that they’ll probably just be waking up when you read this (presuming it’s Friday) and thus may well be at peak cute.
- The NYC Crime Map: Another interesting use of public data from NYC, and another chance for me to whinge about how in London we don’t have anywhere near the same access to and ability to mess with information about the city in which we live (although I am reliably informed by people in the know that this is being addressed – something else to look forward to in 2014, although perhaps ‘look forward to’ is a slight exaggeration). Oh, and if you’re into this sort of thing, this is the US Government’s Open Data archive.
- The Ex-Boyfriend Revenge Kit: This is just sinister. Effectively this is a just a handbag, but for promotional purposes this Aussie company are packaging it with a whole load of other stuff (crowbar, rope, syringe, truth serum, etc) and offering the whole as a means of getting back at a man who wronged you. Good luck with the legal issues, guys!
- London On Trend: Instagram pics from London, mapped as they are taken onto a Google map. Nice little hack and properly hypnotic in a weird sort of way.
- Autodissociate.me: A web-art project by 19 year-old Mary Bond, which consists of a selection of written elements (composed, sourced and randomly generated) overlayed on a series of webcam-style posted shots (often nudes). Don’t know why, but I rather liked this – the metacommentary (that word again) above the images is a nice accompaniment to them, and there’s something rather compelling about the random juxtapositions which it can throw up. Slightly NSFW, just so’s you know.
- A Collection Of Virtual Yule Logs: I didn’t know this, but apparently it’s a *thing* in the US for small / local TV channels to show a picture of a burning log in a hearth on Christmas day instead of refgular programming, to allow families to create the illusion of Olde Worlde comfort and warmth in their sterile modern homes. This is a virtual equivalent – a whole load of differently designed and presented vanimations of burning logs, as imagined by artists around the world. There are some very nice designs in here.
- Pompeiian Graffiti: A collection of translated graffiti from Pompeii. Man, those ancient Romans were a bawdy lot. I’d leave some of these scrawled in the bathroom at work, were I you lot.
- Crowded VS Empty: A lovely page on the Smithsonian Magazine website collecting pictures and information of the world’s most crowded and most overcrowded places around the world, made mapped and navigable. Simple but does a lovely job at reminding us of how incredibly BIG and diverse the planet is (you’d have thought that at the age of 34 I’d have stopped being surprised by this sort of thing).
- The Walk: I’ve mentioned game design agency 6 To Start on here many times before – they made the now-legendary fitness game ‘Zombies, Run!’, which introduced game elements to the act of going for a jog in a more sophisticated way than Nike had done at the time. Anyway, they’ve got a new one which launched this week – called The Walk, and developed in partnership with the NHS, it’s basically more story than game; the smart thing about it is the way it uses a compelling narrative and the desire to find out what happens next to drive participation (and thus physical activity) rather than some sort of badge system. Clever – will be interesting to see whether Government looks at this and tries to apply the technique to other things (“Go to the jobcentre to access the next episode of your favourite soap!”? Hm, maybe not).
- Comics + Music Player: I know that there’s a name for that music whichis presented on big rolls of paper with holes in it and which was fed into old pianos to make them autoplay, but I can’t for the life of me recall what that name is. Balls. Anyway, this is SUPER CUTE – a miniature version of that technology, from Japan, in which the tiny rolls of music also have comic strips printed on them – so as you wind the machine you get to read the comic strip and hear the soundtrack play along in time. It probably doesn’t work *quite* perfectly in practice, but the device itself is adorable so I forgive it any failings (how magnanimous of me).
- Reverse-Inspiration Band Tshirts: I’ve featured quite a lot of Butcher Billy’s work on here before – his latest project is a collection of pictures of ICONIC musicians, wearing band tshirts depicting the logos of artists who came long after them. Because, you know, SATIRE. I rather like these, and would like to be able to buy them as posters please. You could really, really annoy music purists with them, which is never a bad thing in general.
- French Subway Etiquette: They’re just so stylish, aren’t they? This is an official document by a French rail company – you couldn’t imagine TFL or FIrst Great Western coming up with something this cool, could you? It’s in French, but if you’re not a Francophone the illustrations will still nice up your eyes.
- Rijksmuseum Releases Its API: In the wake of the Tate doing the same thing earlier this year, this week Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, one of the most digitally savvy cultural organisations in Europe to my mind, has done the same thing. I would like someone to make something from both, please – perhaps a catalogue-masher which takes descriptions of modern art from the Tate’s collection and applies them to the Dutch museum’s unparalleled collection of 17thC Northern European works for dissonance-LOLs. Shardcore?
- Create Your Own Minute Of Silence: Exactly that, with timer. If it was your office Christmas party last night, perhaps you might need to do this for your dignity.
- Old Vids + New Music = This: Let’s Dance is a webproject by…someone (actually Edward Forshaw, it turns out)…which is collecting videos of people dancing from yesteryear and syncing them with modern music for COMEDY EFFECT. It’s fun, uses Echonest, and could only be improved by letting you select tracks and then trawling YouTube for potential video matches. COME ON ED SORT IT OUT PLEASE THANKS.
I have no idea, sorry. Anyone?
THE LAST SELECTION OF LINKS YOU WILL GET FROM ME IN 2013 AND WHICH THEREFORE YOU SHOULD SAVOUR LIKE SOME SORT OF FINE WINE OR SINGLE-ESTATE COCOA BEAN CHOCOLATE WHILST SECRETLY BEING QUITE GLAD THAT YOU CAN SPEND THE HOLIDAYS IGNORING THE INTERNET COMPLETELY (OR AT LEAST THAT’S WHAT I PLAN TO DO – I REALLY COULD DO WITH A BREAK FROM ALL THIS, WEBMONGS, IF I’M HONEST WITH YOU, BECAUSE SOMETIMES I WORRY IT’S NOT REALLY VERY GOOD FOR ME OR INDEED PSYCHOLOGICALLY HEALTHY TO READ THIS MUCH INTERNET), PT.2:
- The Gif Lenticular: We’ve had the Gif flipbook, and the gif mechanised toy – now we have the Gif lenticular. This service lets you turn any Gif you want into a small lenticular print which you can then order. Use this in pitches as leavebehinds, you know you want to.
- The Picfair Pics Of The Year: Picfair is one of my favourite things of the year, and it seems to be going well which makes me happy. In case you missed it, it’s a service which allows anyone to upload any of their pics to the site, set a single-use licensing cost, and then lets others buy use of that image under certain pre-agreed licensing terms. Effectively it lets anyone monetise their photography (as long as there’s a market for it), and is INNOVATIVE and DISRUPTIVE and all those other words which we’re all sick of. Anyway, these are their best shots of the year – there are some crackers on there.
- Pictures Of US Presidents Hanging Out: I love these. A selection of shots from Obama, Bush and Clinton’s trip to South Africa this week to attend Mandela’s memorial (on which note, if you’ve not read the account by the man who took THAT selfie shot of Obama, Cameron and Thorning Schmidt of the context around it, then go do so now) which demonstrates just how staged and agenda-led political photography can be, and that being POTUS is the sort of experience which creates relationships which transcend Democratic/GOP boundaries.
- The Best / Worst Santa Costume Ever: If you’re yet to have your office shindig, you may wish to consider this. Just imagine it in Extra Large. JUST IMAGINE.
- A 360-degree Lap With The Stig: I hate Top Gear. Sorry. Anyway, if you like cars and stuff then this video by the bloke in the helmet driving fast might be up your street – it’s one of those ‘look, you can watch in 360 degrees!’ things, and for all I know is quite exciting if you can drive.
- Ship A Dcik: Have you ever wanted to ship a giant cardboard penis to someone? OH GOOD!
- Examining Technologically Dubious Kickstarter Projects: A website which looks at all those Kickstarters which look SO FUTURE and which as a result are perhaps at best overambitious and at worst outright fantasy. Clever and interesting, but will also in part kill quite a few of your dreams. Also contains at least one thing I have featured on here, which suggests I am an idiot who understands nothing and should apply a little more editorial rigour in 2014 (*adds to resolutions list*).
- GifWrapping: Artists share animated Gif art projects with each other for Christmas. We get to look at them, which is almost like getting a present ourselves. Almost, maybe, a bit.
- Cheerify: A website / plugin which lets you CHRISTMASIFY (not a word) any website you choose with WRAPPING PAPER and CHRISTMAS EFFECTS and MUSIC. When I say ‘Christmasify’ I of course mean ‘render dreadful, unnavigable and migraine-inducing’ – as a promo for digital agency AMP I am frankly unimpressed.
- The Amiga Workbench Emulator: I don’t really know what you’re meant to do with this, if I’m 100% honest with you, but if anyone can show me how I can make it play Sensible Soccer then I will love you forever.
- Highway One: This week’s ‘best example of HTML parallax scrolling thingy’ is this, a guide to America’s Highway One, made in the style of a road trip. Such lovely design, and it’s informative and functional too. 100,000,000 points.
- Fred Bassett + Slayer: This should be a Tumblr. Why isn’t it a Tumblr? Anyway, this takes what is officially the least funny strip cartoon IN THE WORLD (seriously though, has anyone ever laughed at Fred Bassett? Is it a dog-lover thing? Maybe you need to be a closed minded, bigoted twat who reads the Mail (and if you ‘only’ read the Mail Online then YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM) to laugh at it – I just don’t know) and combines it with the sensitively poetic lyrics of Slayer in a move which makes the strip both funny and sort of terrifying.
- The NYC Taxi Calendar of 2014: A calendar collecting the sexy cab drivers of the Big Apple in sexy poses. I use the term ‘sexy’ pretty loosely, but I really do think that Hailo should jump on this and knock one out quickly for London – can you IMAGINE the specimens?
- The Future Of UI: Not the first of these that I’ve seen, but it’s a pretty comprehensive collection of examples of ‘OH WOW LOOK AT THE FUTURE’ interface design from films. I think that we might see some stuff like this almost starting to nearly become reality in the next 12 months or so (way to hedge my bets) – if the XBox One takes off as a home entertainment / multemedia hub THING, with all its gestural interface stuff, you might start to see web designers experimenting with some of these things for Kinect-specfic browsing experiences. They’ll be horrible at first, obviously, but we’re almost at a point where it could work.
- A Sound Map Of The World: I think that this is an amazing project. As far as I can tell, this is a totally personal project which invites people to send in ambient recordings of their surroundings and then maps them across Google Maps – creating an audiopicture of the world. The volume of contributions is really, really impressive, and I just lost about 20 minutes’ writing time listening to what Germany, France and Japan sound like. Things like this are why the internet is, occasionally, brilliant.
- Dai Lyn’s Photos Of Old People Wearing B-Boy Clothes: No more, no less. Great pictures. I did a GCSE in Religious Education (Catholic school, had no choice) in which I suggested that the church should combat ageism by getting pensioners into Bhangra and hardcore and dressing them accordingly – God, I was ahead of my time.
- A Photoessay About North Korea: We’ve learned a lot about North Korea this year – not much of it pleasant, to be honest. This is a great photoessay about the country – loads of great pictures and definitely worth a scroll through.
- 214 Music Tips for 2014: Selected by website Crack In The Road, this is a truly EPIC collection of recommendations for interesting listening material next year. I have no idea how much of this is good, but the bits I’ve skimmed over / listened to suggest a massively eclectic collection of a whole load of stuff you may not have heard of. Take a punt and see what you hear (wow, that’s a hideous phrase, sorry).
- The Good Bits From The Comments: It’s a widely held truism that everything that happens below the line is bad and evil and idiotic (and on YouTube that’s still largely true, despite Google’s recent efforts). Blorpy, though, is a (horribly named) website which collects interesting, thoughtful and heartwarming comments from blogs and news articles around the web in one place. Fascinating – there’s loads of really interesting stuff in here about all sorts of things.
- The 8-bit Selfie: A neat little website, the Interstellar Selfie Station uses your webcam to take a picture of you and then 8-bits the fcuk out of it, with all sorts of contrast and definition filters to make your image look like the loading screen of a ZX Spectrum game circa 1987. Actually looks rather cool, and might be nice if you’re bored of your social media avatar and are of a retro-gaming bent.
- Why Is The Sky Blue?: I sort of know the answer to this, in a really loose, crap, unscientific way – I really liked this site which explained it to me in simple words and pictures that even someone who’s a bit crap at science could understand. Nice design.
- Turning A Building Into A Rubik’s Cube: This is just mental really. 3d projection and very clever tech combined – it’s clunky but also very impressive indeed.
- Crap Gift Picker: I really should have putall the Christmas stuff in its own section, shouldn’t I? Oh well. This is a rather nice little promotoy by interactive agency Traction, which allows you to randomly pick a slightly rubbish gift for someone you ought to get a present for but really don’t care about enough to think about what to get them.
- Least Helpful: A website collecting the least helpful, most curmudgeonly reviews on Amazon (and other sites, probably). It does make you wonder about the sort of people who actively choose to take time from their lives to post things like ‘FEATURES THE WORD ‘QUEER’. DISGUSTING’ under a review. You hope that most of these are jokes, but fear that they’re not.
- Your Own Private Video Archive: Mindlogr is a platform which allows people to record video of themselves and then store it in a private archive – the idea being that you will develop a personal, persistent video journal of your life, stored in one place, against which you can map all sorts of other quantified self data (it connects with Nike+, Fitbit, etc) and general information like the news or the weather. For any of you who’ve read Houllebecq’s ‘The Possibility of an Island’, the concept of the LIFE STORY as he defines it is pretty much a variant on this very thing; an interesting idea overall.
- Buy A Private Island: What to get for the person who has everything. Amazingly this appears to be real.
- World In Love: This is a very sweet project indeed, looking to find examples of couples which cover every single possible match of nationalities available. It’s probably doomed to failure unless it gets a big publicity injection, but I think the ethos behind it is lovely.
- Aluminium Casts of Anthills: This bloke basically pours molten aluminium into ants’ nests which then solidifies and creates amazing sculptures which match the dimensions of the insane network of tunnels and chambers within. AND ALSO KILLS ALL THE ANTS. I presume the hot metal just sort of disintegrates them on impact – or is your sculpture full of ant corpses. WHY HAS NOONE CONSIDERED THIS?
- Lots Of Little Webgames In One Place: Because you’re not doing any more work between now and Christmas, let’s be honest.
- The Junk Drawer Project: Picturs of the crap we store and the stories behind why we do so. More interesting than it probably ought to be (at least to me, who has about 17 variants on this around the house which I’m sort of too scared to open in case BAD MEMORIES leap out).
- Depression Quest: A text and music game about living with depression. Christmas isn’t a fun time for the depressed. Now might be a good time to consider donating some of the money you were going to spend on useless sh1t noone really needs or wants to a charity instead. Try Mind, or maybe Shelter.
- WikiGif: All of the Gifs from Wikipedia on one website. Man, there’s some odd stuff on Wikipedia.
- The Vagine Decal For Trackpads: There’s no other way to describe it. It’s purportedly a feminist statement. I’m not really sure what to think.
- The 50 Worst Things On The Internet in 2013: Finally, a roundup of a load of pictures and Gifs which will make you hope that some sort of meteorite strikes between now and January 1st 2014 and puts a stop to us once and for all. Although I’m surprised that the above-mentioned vagina decal’s not on the list.
By James Whitlow Delano
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS:
- Respectful Rappers: What if rap lyrics were a little less angry and misogynistic and a little more feminist? This might be what they would be like, maybe.
- King James Programming: This is VERY geeky. Algorithmically mashing text from the King James Bible with The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programmes for ‘comic’ effect. Programmers might like this; the rest of you, skip to the next one which has Macauley Culkin in it.
- The Pizza Underground: What would YOU do if you were former child star Macauley Culkin? Would you descend into a drink and drug fueled hell and set up a dreadful, morally-questionable venture seeking to exploit your former ‘fame’ so as to get into the pants of a lot of desperate women seeking some tawdry variant on fame in the Hollywood hills (HELLO COREY FELDMAN!)? NO YOU WOULD NOT! You would form pizza-themed Velvet Underground tribute band called The Pizza Underground. Of course you would. You can listen to the music here if you want (it’s…er…not great).
- Sports Balls Replaced With Cats: Erm, that.
- Jaden Is Worried: I always though that John Terry’s resting facial expression was the acme of existential sadness (seriously, check out the massively bleak look he always sports), but now there’s a new champion of worry – Will Smith’s kid Jaden. Poor lad. I hope he’s ok.
- Cloaque: This is a seemingly infinitely scrolling Tumblr art project which collects all sorts of random imagery, gifs, 3d models, etc, and dumps them all onto the page in a way which is weirdly a lot more visually coherent than it ought to be. Its curators call it ‘digital compost’. I like that. Contains 3d modeled genitalia, in case you care.
- 12 Shoes For 12 Lovers: Sebastian Errazuriz is an artist who has designed 12 pairs of shoes, each of which depicts aspects of one of his former lovers. Each is accompanied by a short vignette from their relationship. This might be my favourite thing on here this week.
- Stop Senior Selfies: A Tumblr campaigning to get OLD PEOPLE to stop taking selfies as it’s only for the kids, YEAH?! Unfortunately the curator’s definition of ‘senior’ seems to encompass people over the age of 30. The young are TYRANTS.
- Tom Hanks Animals: Tom Hanks’ face, on gifs of animals. That’s all. The one at the top as I write this made me laugh a LOT.
- Medieval People Of Colour: A collection of images of people of colour from renaissance art.
- UX Critique: Looking at all the reasons why the new iPhone UX is rubbish.
- Ineffective Chinstraps: A late contender for most weirdly niche Tumblr or the year, this seemingly collects pictures of people wearing headgear with chinstraps that don’t really fit properly.
- All Staff All Day: Purports to be a collection of actual emails which have been sent to all staff in companies, accompanied by appropriate images. Some gold in here.
- Yeezus As Art: Lyrics from Kanye’s ‘Yeezus’ album, illustrated by pics from Bing image search. By Shardcore – you can read about it here if you like.
- My Earliest Memory: A project by Simon White, collecting people’s earliest memories. Contribute one – it’s a lovely project.
LONG STUFF WHICH IS LONG BUT WHICH YOU WILL HAVE AMPLE TIME TO READ BETWEEN NOW AND NEXT TIME AND AS SUCH WHICH YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE NOT TO DIVE INTO LIKE SOME SORT OF HAPPY WORD-EATING CORMORANT (NO, ME NEITHER):
- A Lovely, Long Interview With Bill Watterson: After Calvin & Hobbes got megafamous, its creator Bill Watterson didn’t do many interviews. This, though, is from 1989 before it had become quite the worldwide phenomenon it would eventually develop into; this is a long and fascinating interview with the man, which touches on all sorts of fascinating stuff about the strip. To me, though, the best bits are Wattersons slightly testy responses to questions about whether Hobbes is ‘real’ or not, and what that does to the narrative – it’s a lovely example of a creator wanting to give their work to breathe and live in the mind rather than give people answers on a plate, and how that ambiguity creates a depth to the strip that it could never have had otherwise.
- An AMA With The Semen Chef: There’s a book for sale on Amazon called ‘Natural Harvest: A Collection of Semen-based Recipes‘ – if you’ve spent much time on the internet, you’ve probably come across it (sorry). This is a Reddit AMA with the book’s author which is actually sort of legitimately interesting, but which I am including mainly because there are SO MANY QUOTES in here which I suggest that you copy and paste into emails to colleagues over the next week or so. Go on, confuse them a little.
- Jonah Peretti, Critical Theory and Advertising: I don’t care what Time Magazine says, this was the year of Jonah Peretti, and the year in which the world’s media basically looked at Buzzfeed’s success and just sort of gave up trying to be different (hyperbole, but). This is a fascinating fund, dug out by Critical Theory Magazine (whose summary of it is worth reading if you can’t stomach the academic-ese (not a word)) – an early essay by Peretti on capitalism, queer theory and identity commodification. Read this (or, as I said, the summary) and realise where Buzzfeed came from (and maybe a bit about where we are all going, maybe). Contains the amazing (if you consider the context of who wrote it) observation that we are increasingly obsessing over “isolated, disconnected, discontinuous material signifiers which fail to link up into a coherent sequence” – YOU’RE NOT HELPING, JONAH.
- Why ‘Life’ Doesn’t Exist: Not going to lie, this one’s a bit *hard*. A piece from Scientific American in which the author asserts that to assert that there is some quality called ‘life’ which differentiates certain objects or organisms from others is fallacious, and that instead we should understand distinctions in terms of systemic complexity. Which has all sorts of fairly mental philosophical implications, particularly in terms of AI and stuff. Sort of headbending.
- An Interview With The Creator of Cache Monet: This year’s web art sensation Cache Monet has been linked to EVERYWHERE. This interview with its creator Tim Nolan is fascinating on the manner in which it’s started to bridge the gap between a digital and a physical work, and how offline galleries are trying to get in on the act.
- Why Upworthy Headllines Are Everywhere: Short answer – because they work. Longer answer – because of Twitter and Facebook, and there’s nothing at all that we can do about it. This is a very clever look at the deeper media politics behind Facebook’s recent ‘quality content’-prioritising algorithm change, and how that has basically ruined EVERYTHING (/hyperbole).
- On The Sad Death Of The Quiet Gig: This is a very good and very true piece from Th Quietus on how it’s no longer possible to go to a gig without having it ruined by some idiot(s) talking constantly throughout it. Does this mean I’m getting old? No, it means that the world is becoming increasingly full of arseholes (I am well aware that writing that sentence means that I am in fact getting old).
- I Had Sex With My High School Teacher: Not me, obviously, the author of this piece. As a girl, she had a brief affair with her mid-20s teacher; this is her account of what it felt like and what happened. A really beautiful piece of writing which is in no way sensational and which is by turns funny and heartbreakingly sad, and may make you think a little differently about a few of this year’s news stories, maybe.
- Dasani’s Homeless Life: One of the best pieces of journalism I have read all year, this report by the New York Times into the life of one family on the poverty line in the city will at points move you to tears (guaranteed), but is a brilliant and (I think) pleasingly unsentimental look at what it is like to be very poor in a large Western metropolis. Good multimedia, good photography and excellent writing combine to make this worth taking every single minute it takes to read. Sort-of essential, I think.
- The PTSD Lobotomies of Post-War America: Some 2,000 men were lobotomised by the US Army Veterans Administration, to treat them for conditions that at the time they didn’t even have names for but which now we’d probably call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This piece on the Wall Street Journal is another great piece of multimedia journalism, looking at how and why it happened. It’s, er, not a very happy story, I warn you.
- The Rise Of Millennial Writing: I love this very much indeed. It’s a nice summation of where we find ourselves as a civilisation with the internet and our senses of self and individualism, all wrapped up in what Bret Easton Ellis called the ‘Post-Empire’ mindset, and in many ways it’s one of the best summaries of what almost everything I have linked to in 2013 has made me think and feel on one level or another.
By Kei Meguro
NOW, THE MOVING PICTURES! OH, AND YES, BEYONCE MADE A RECORD
1) First, a present for you. Take this link and save it somewhere, and then remember it on one dark afternoon over Christmas and curl up on the couch and watch it ALL. This is a director’s cut of The Dark Crystal, painstakingly reconstructed and recoloured from an old black and white print of the film as Henson originally intended it. Enjoy:
2) I love Jeffrey Lewis. He’s clever and funny and a great artist and he writes brilliant, funny songs (if you don’t know him, try ‘Back When I Was 4‘ as a taster) and he’s interested and passionate (but, god love him, his singing can best be described as ‘Dylanesque’, and even Bob might find that comparison a bit unflattering). This is his sung and drawn tribute to Alan Moore, the Wizard of Northampton and one of the UK’s most brilliantly unhinged creative minds:
3) Not 100% sure what this is – whether it’s an interview or a performance or a combination of the two – but as a piece of filmmaking it’s rather wonderful. Watch the story of Mr X and his amazing tattoos:
4) I spent a large part of the first few months of this year talking about drones and then it all sort of became too real to be interesting. This short film is a reasonably plausible look at what (at the current rate of progress) 2018 might look like:
5) ‘Wind’ is a lovely short animation about life in a very windy city indeed. Beautiful style coupled with great little visual gags make this one rather special indeed:
6) HIPHOP CORNER! This is UK rapper Fem Fel, of whom I had never heard, with his new single ‘Massive’. I like the production and the slightly thudding feel of it – sort of oppressive, in a good way:
7) Max Cooper is a producer who makes glitchy, skippy, nervous-making soundscapes in the style of Venetian Snares and other WARP-type artists. Tom Hodge is a pianist and composer. This is the music they made together, which is really rather lovely – and, when accompanied by this 3d animation by Nick Cobby, make it my second-favourite thing of the week:
8) This, though, is my favourite thing. Yes, it contains ukelele, and yes, it’s hipster as fcuk. I don’t care. The song is gorgeous, I think, and the video – which tells of people jumping trains across America – is all sorts of open-country-freedom-porn, with some gorgeous direction and shots (and it’s also the second thing this week to feature animated tatts). I could listen to this on a loop, and sort of have been – it’s called ‘Beggar’s Guild’, and it’s by Roadkill Ghost Choir:
9) I’m going to finish with my two favourite songs of the year – not the best ones, necessarily, but the ones which stuck in my head more than any others and which I’ve found myself coming back to again and again. First, ‘Born To Kill’ by The Thermals with its bloody, torture-themed video – under 2 minutes of brilliant guitarpop; the second by my friend Adam (AKA Akira The Don) and Gmane called The Beat Goes on – there’s no video, but it’s been in my head for 6 months and deserves its place.
Thanks all of you who read this, I really do appreciate it. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – take care and have fun, webmongs x
That’s it for now